To the Editor:
I have been a small business owner in Miami for the past 10 years. I operate a public relations and marketing firm with my husband. I also work in the family business of journalism, running a news website about Venezuela with my brother and father, also based here in Miami.
Inclusivity in our companies is a given. It is not a calculated choice to treat everyone with respect regardless of background, country of origin, sexual orientation, or identity, or religious affiliation; it is the natural and right thing for us to do.
We just never saw any reason to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. Why would we? We believe everyone has the right to be who they are and, as such, have access to jobs and housing and feel safe in their community and all public spaces.
When looking to fill a position at either of my companies, my top priority is to find the strongest candidate — the person who can get things done and perform all of the required skills at the highest level possible. The sexual orientation of any candidate is of no consideration to me at any point in the hiring process.
Unfortunately, I realize, that not everyone shares my views, which I think is a mistake — not only personally, but from a business perspective. Our approach to inclusivity at both of our companies is not only the morally right thing, but it makes strong business sense and helps to contribute our bottom line and the success of our companies.
Study after study has proven that when a company provides an environment for employees to be themselves, both the company and the employees are more productive. In fact, a 2016 study by the investment banking and research firm Credit Suisse found that LGBT friendly companies tended to outperform the broader market when it came to stock price gains.
Also, employees who can be themselves at work are more likely to remain in their current positions longer than ones who are unable to share themselves with their coworkers. The cost of constant employee turnover or increased time out of the office by employees who feel stressed or burdened is not profitable and can be a real financial burden for small businesses. Retaining employees with whom you have invested time and training is what will help to contribute to a thriving business and community.
Finally, a more diverse and open workplace will help to increase creativity, leading to innovation and the birth of new ideas. This can be transformative for any organization.
As a proud Floridan by choice, I continue to find it disgraceful that there is no state-wide protection for our fellow citizens when it comes to protections on the job, in housing, and public places. As such, business and forward-thinking communities, must step forward and ensure that everyone has access to employment and housing and feel safe in their own communities.
The good news is that many business owners get it. From Fortune 500 companies to small businesses — we are sending a message that being inclusive makes a positive impact on one’s business and in turn, the community.
Helena Poleo is president of Influence Communications, a full-service marketing, public relations crisis communications company in Miami. You can connect with Helena on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @helepoleo.